A comprehensive survey of physicians, laboratories, and hospital records in Rhode Island showed that more than 157,000 throat cultures for a population of 930,000 people were done in 1980. Eighty-seven percent of primary care physicians prescribed antibiotic therapy before culture results were known, and almost 40% continued antibiotic therapy for ten days regardless of culture results. The throat culture positivity rate for β-hemolytic Streptococcus was 17% statewide in 1980. Only three definite and seven possible cases of acute rheumatic fever were identified by hospital chart reviews and a physician survey covering the five years 1976 through 1980. Current throat culture practices probably have little influence on treatment of streptococcal pharyngitis and control of rheumatic fever in the state.